On June 29, 2002, Romulo Antonio Braschi, founder of a schismatic
community, attempted to ordain the following Catholic women to the
priesthood: Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Roitinger, Gisela
Forster, Iris Müller, Ida Raming, Pia Brunner and Dagmar Braun Celeste,
who on that occasion identified herself as Angela White.
Citing the previous interventions of the Bishop of Linz and of the
Austrian Episcopal Conference, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith published a statement on July 10, 2002, warning the
above-mentioned persons that they would be punished with excommunication
if by July 22, 2002, they had not acknowledged the nullity of their
"ordination" and asked forgiveness for the scandal caused to
the faithful. As they gave no indication of amendment, this Congregation
punished the aforementioned persons with excommunication, reserved to
the Apostolic See, in the Decree dated August 5, 2002, expressing the
hope that they might be moved to conversion. The Decree also confirmed
that the "ordaining" bishop was already excommunicated insofar
as he is a schismatic.
They subsequently published letters and granted interviews, in which
they expressed their conviction regarding the validity of the
"ordination" they received, calling for a change of the
definitive doctrine according to which ordination to the priesthood is
reserved to males, and reaffirming that they celebrate "Mass"
and other "sacraments" for small groups. In a letter dated
August 14, 2002, they asked that the Decree of Excommunication be
revoked, and then, on September 27, 2002, with reference to canons
1732-1739 CIC, they made recourse against the Decree. On October
21, 2002, they were informed that their request would be submitted to
the competent authority.
The request for revocation and the recourse were examined by the
Sessione Ordinaria of the Congregation on the 4th and 18th of December
2002. The Members of the Congregation who participated—those resident
in Rome—were Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger, Alfonso López Trujillo,
Ignace Moussa I. Daoud, Giovanni Battista Re, Francis Arinze, Jozef
Tomko, Achille Silvestrini, Jorge Medina Estévez, James Francis
Stafford, Zenon Grocholewski, Walter Kasper, Crescenzio Sepe, Mario
Francesco Pompedda, and Bishops Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., and Rino
Fisichella. In the course of these meetings the Members arrived at the
collegial decision to confirm the Decree of Excommunication. In the case
under consideration, in fact, hierarchical recourse is not possible, as
it concerns a Decree of Excommunication issued by a Dicastery of the
Holy See acting in the name of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. can. 360 CIC).
So as to remove any doubt in the matter, the Members thought it
necessary to underline certain fundamental points.
1. It is necessary above all to state precisely that the case under
consideration does not involve a latae sententiae penalty, which
is incurred ipso facto when a delict expressly established by the
law is committed. It concerns instead a ferendae sententiae
penalty, imposed after the guilty party has been duly warned (cf. cann.
1314; 1347 §1 CIC). As provided by can. 1319 §1 CIC,
this Congregation has the power to threaten determinate penalties by
2. The particular gravity of the offenses committed is evident, which
can be seen from various aspects.
a) There is first of all the issue of schism: the above-mentioned
women were "ordained" by a schismatic bishop and—even though
not formally adhering to his schism—thereby made themselves
accomplices in schism.
b) In addition there is the doctrinal aspect, namely, that they
formally and obstinately reject a doctrine which the Church has always
taught and lived, and which was definitively proposed by Pope John Paul
II, namely, "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer
priestly ordination on women" (Apostolic Letter Ordinatio
sacerdotalis, n. 4). The denial of this doctrine is rightly
considered the denial of a truth that pertains to the Catholic faith and
therefore deserves a just penalty (cf. cann. 750 §2; 1372, n. 1 CIC;
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem, n.
Moreover, by denying this doctrine, the persons in question maintain
that the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff would be binding only if it
were based on a decision of the College of Bishops, supported by the sensus
fidelium and received by the major theologians. In such a way they
are at odds with the doctrine on the Magisterium of the Successor of
Peter, put forward by both the First and Second Vatican Councils, and
they thereby fail to recognize that the teachings of the Supreme Pontiff
on doctrines to be held definitively by all the faithful are
3. The refusal to comply with the penal precept established by this
Congregation is further aggravated by the fact that some of the
above-mentioned women have been gathering round them members of the
faithful, in open and devisive disobedience to the Roman Pontiff and
diocesan bishops. In view of the gravity of this contumacy (cf. can.
1347 CIC), the penalty imposed is not only just, but also
necessary, in order to protect true doctrine, to safeguard the communion
and unity of the Church and to guide the consciences of the faithful.
4. The above-mentioned Members of the Congregation of the Doctrine of
the Faith therefore confirm the Decree of Excommunication issued on
August 5, 2002, specifying once again that the attempted priestly
ordination of the aforementioned women is null and invalid (cf. can.
1024 CIC) and therefore all those actions proper to the Order of
Priesthood performed by them are also null and invalid (cf. cann. 124;
841 CIC). In consequence of the excommunication, they are
forbidden to celebrate sacraments or sacramentals, to receive the
sacraments and to exercise any function in an ecclesiastical office,
ministry or assignment (cf. can. 1331 §1 CIC).
5. At the same time, it is hoped that, sustained by the grace of the
Holy Spirit, they might discover the path to conversion and so return to
the unity of faith and to communion with the Church, a communion broken
by their action.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the
undersigned Cardinal Prefect on December 20, 2002, approved this Decree,
adopted in the Sessione Ordinaria of this Congregation, approving at the
same time in forma specifica n. 4, and ordered its publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, December 21, 2002.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.
Archbishop-elect of Genoa